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District 9

A 2009 science fiction / action film directed by Neill Blomkamp.

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  • Dec 22, 2009
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 The start of this film really presented somewhat of a unique challenge for first time feature film director, Neill Blomkamp as it adopted a realistic documentary story telling style for the majority of this bizarre Sci-Fi picture. This was a unique style and for the entire time that was maintained I found myself being utterly enthralled by the whole ordeal. Something went wrong however, and in the last 45 minutes or so, Blomkamp abandoned that cinematographic method for a generic action sequence that, although still successfully told the story, took a lot away from what the first half of the film worked so hard to build up. The curious but strangely inspired choice of Johannesburg, South Africa as the setting for this film really worked on a lot of levels and as I think more about it, I struggle to really believe if this film could have been set anywhere else and work just as well. Focusing on the main theme of racism, this film has a really powerful message to send and Blomkamp purposely does not try to gloss over the truly harsh nature of the events being depicted in the film. 

In 1982 a large alien mother ship was stranded hovering over Johannesburg unable to leave as some suspected the ship had lost its navigation device which was apparently seen falling from the mother ship but was never found. As exploratory team cuts their way into the ship to find a large number of insect-like aliens, malnourished and leaderless they are contained within a government district known as District 9. 20 years later a mass public hostility has grown towards the derogatorily labelled Prawns and a decision is made to move them to a new camp which would be safer for both humans and aliens. A private military contractor called Multinational United (MNU) is brought in by the government to move the now 1.8 million alien population to a new camp, District 10, placed 240 Kilometres outside of Johannesburg. Leading this mass relocation campaign is MNU field operative Wikus Van Der Merwe. During the time of him serving the eviction notices and inspecting the alien huts, he discovers an alien device which sprays dark liquid into his face and infects him with a virus that is slowly transforming him into a prawn. In order to be cured Wikus must team up with a prawn to help get the device back from the MNU and help the aliens return to the mother ship. 

Although the character of Wikus has a pivotal part in this film, the triumph of the whole feature is the alien species more affectionately named, Prawns. The creation of New Zealand based Weta Workshop, famous for their work on the Lord of the Rings films, they made the conscious decision to create a creature that we could both be intimidated by and feel sympathy for. A lot of the latter emotion has to do with the eyes of the creature as they are truly the eyes inspired by a puppy dog. The creatures interact and behave exactly the same as humans do in the conditions the aliens have found themselves confined in. It comes across as a film about the third world conditions and the aliens as a metaphoric representation of how we treat things that are "alien" to us which I found to be quite an endearing aspect of the film. Wikus is the loveable loser who's faced with a massive obstacle that he really struggles to overcome and that is the largest part of his charm. He's a real person and although he does display a truly despicable side, his redeeming qualities outshine the evil nature we first see. 

The setting of Johannesburg, as mentioned before, is a truly inspired choice of setting for such a movie as is the general consensus with alien movies we would usually expect to see them set in some major US city. Johannesburg is a perfect choice to tell such a story as the desolate, detritus landscape of the alien slums is the only real setting that can tell this story and if set in an American city or state, I think this film would have struggled to achieve the same impact. Setting the alien story parallel to the true conditions in which the South Africans live allows for that additional element of terror and sympathy not just for the South African people but for the alien characters also. The gore and language of the film is smattered with 80s and 90s Sci Fi nostalgia, reminiscent of the likes of Robocop and Starship Troopers, which creates a more aggressive feel to the atmospheric tone of the film. 

Out of everything in this film that can be both praised and condemned the overall film works superbly to allow for one very enjoyable experience. Being the first major acting job of Sharlto Copley (Wikus), this is without a doubt the stepping stone that will lead onto an immensely successful career for this very talented actor. I won't spoil the end but it is open ended and there is certainly room for a sequel which I hope we will see at some point. I am especially optimistic with the news of Blomkamp expressing interest in creating a sequel. I would say you should really see this film in any way you possibly can as it's genuinely worth your time. It may not be the best film you will ever see in your lifetime, but it will definitely be one that you will have a fondness for.

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More District 9 reviews
review by . April 22, 2011
Okay, I'm a pretty big sci-fi geek. I watch numerous sci-fi shows and I'm a big fan of most sci-fi films. I enjoy watching science fiction be used as a platform that explores deep personal truths about the human condition. Every good sci-fi movie reveals something deep about ourselves, but amongst the good ones, there are terrible sci-fi movies that never should have seen the light of day. I'm normally an easy reviewer and I'll even give a bad sci-fi film some credit every once in …
review by . December 24, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
District 9 is one of those movies that I bought on DVD (though I soon upgraded to blu-ray) on a whim and wasn't burned by a bad movie. This was one of those times that I wish I watched the movie in theaters, and that when the hype behind a hit movie is largely justified.      STORY      In 1982, a giant alien ship grinds to a halt above Johannesburg, South Africa. The aliens are referred to negatively as “Prawns” for their scavenger-like personalities, …
review by . August 14, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
   Co-produced by Peter Jackson, the acclaimed director of the “Lord of the Rings” and directed by Neil Blomkamp; ‘DISTRICT 9” screams “Cult Classic”. Blomkamp has adapted his short film called “Alive in Joberg” and has crafted a film loosely inspired by the events of District 6 in South Africa. “District 9” collects some familiar pieces of history, science fiction elements, and some cool action in a tale which is mainly a retelling …
review by . August 26, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Alien mothership...
   The idea of using science fiction and horror stories as a way of discussing taboo or controversial social, political, and religious themes is nothing new. Since the birth of the horror genre, which came into being after the popularity of 18th century gothic romance took off, and since science fiction was first acknowledged as a genre unto itself in the late 19th century, the two have often dealt with issues that were considered to be of the utmost social importance while disguising …
Quick Tip by . June 01, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Despite the movie's less-than-subtle messages about humanity, I found this to be a strong film because of the fact that the characters have decent levels of depth to them, which is one of the main deciding factors for why I like District 9.  In particular, I found Wikus's change in character, physically and in terms of personality, the most interesting.  The cool action scenes and visual aesthetics to the Prawn technology are also helping factors with this.      …
review by . April 09, 2011
  District 9 begins when a very large star ship lands in South Africa during 1982. These are aliens called "the prawns" and are initially welcomed by the human race. Now, twenty-eight years after this, the aliens are stuck and mistreated in a beat up, worthless camp called District 9. The Multi-National United, otherwise known as MNU, cares very little for the alien race, but has strong interest in their advanced weapons. An MNU field operative, Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) …
Quick Tip by . September 07, 2011
I've seen this movie multiple times now, and still haven't managed to review it yet. It's a brilliant look at racism, segregation, and seeing these topics from the other side.
review by . June 07, 2010
The movie started off slow and directed like it was a documentary.  A mothership of aliens comes to Earth and stays hovered over  South Africa.  A military orginazation (NMU) sends a team of helicopters and moves the aliens to live in District 9, a hovel fillled area.  The aliens are called "prawns" and like to eat catfood.  The aliens also bring very advanced weapons that NMU is very interested in.  Unfortunately only the aliens can fire them because the …
review by . December 30, 2009
One of the greatest science fiction films of all time...
I've seen Sci-Fi films that try and fail miserable to get that emotional reaction from audience by telling a recycled story and a dried up plot. But I'm finally happy to report that there is such a Si-Fi film, and this film is called "District 9."          District 9 tells the story of a lone man, who is infected by an alien biotechnology and him and him alone becomes the only hope for the salvation of the aliens. It's a powerful film that resonates with Science …
review by . May 23, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
'District 9' is one of those movies that blindsided me - I had heard a little about it before seeing it, but few specifics. I was excited and hopeful, usually signs that I'm about to be disappointed. Not only did the film not disappoint, it went well beyond any expectations I had of it.    In terms of story, it's a film where very little is as it initially seems. You are presented with a deceptively simple scenario - a large alien craft has sort of broken down over Johannesburg, …
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Steven Stewart ()
Ranked #94
Currently studying Law at University, my main interests revolve around Politics. I read quite a lot and love learning about History. Not just the history of a specific time, place and person, but I'm … more
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A provocative science fiction drama,District 9 boasts an original story that gets a little lost in blow-'em-up mayhem. Set in Johannesburg, South Africa, District 9 begins as a mock documentary about the imminent eviction of extraterrestrials from a pathetic shantytown (called District 9). The creatures, it turns out, have been on Earth for years, having arrived sickly and starving. Initially received by humans with compassion and care, the aliens are now mired in blighted conditions typical of long-term refugee camps unwanted by a hostile, host society. With the creatures' care contracted out to a for-profit corporation, the shantytown has become a violent slum. The aliens sift through massive piles of junk while their minders secretly research weapons technology that arrived on the visitors' spacecraft.

Against this backdrop is a more personal story about a bureaucrat named Wikus (Sharlto Copley) who is accidentally exposed to a DNA-altering substance. As he begins metamorphosing into one of the creatures, Wikus goes on the run from scientists who want to harvest his evolving, new parts and aliens who see him as a threat. When he pairs up with an extraterrestrial secretly planning an escape from Earth, however, what should be a fascinating relationship story becomes a series of firefights and explosions. Nuance is lost to numbing violence, and the more interesting potential of the film is obscured. Yet, for a while District 9 is a ...

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Director: Neill Blomkamp
Genre: Action, Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Release Date: August 14, 2009
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell
DVD Release Date: December 22, 2009
Runtime: 112 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
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